Former African tennis pro Jean-Claude Toviave was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for slavery. The Michigan resident fraudulently brought four children from Togo, Africa in 2006 and claimed they were his biological children. Instead of playing the role of a doting father, he was a slave-master. The children were forced to work in his house and suffered from beatings and starvation.
The victims, who now range in age from early teens to young adults, told stories of getting beat with plungers, broomsticks and electrical cords. They were forced to vacuum, iron, cook, clean and shine shoes for almost five years in the Ypsilanti home.
“The physical torture, beating me and starving me, you inflicted was so painful that I prayed at night that God would either help me to be free or allow your assaults to kill me,” wrote the unnamed victim. “The pain is something I will never forget. In the midst of your verbal and physical assaults, you worked the four of us to death.”
One victim currently suffers from permanent damage to his vision and chronic headaches from the brutality he experienced at the hands of Toviave. Even though he had to endure the constant abuse, he’s still a model student and is involved in several sports, is president of the student council and wants to go to medical school.
The “Lord has healed my heart enough to find something good while enduring the physical, mental and emotional abuse you dealt,” the boy, known only as “A.K.,” wrote in his victim impact statement, which was read in court.
During the sentencing, Toviave did not express any signs of remorse. The judge noted that he couldn’t get a good read on him. In addition to the jail sentence, Toviave was ordered to pay two of the victims $60,000 and provide $7,200 apiece to two victims for counseling. Seeing that Toviave is penniless, it’s unlikely they’ll see any of this money.